Friday, 21 November 2014

7QT: Excerpts from Old Journal

You'd have thought I would have a detailed journal from the time I was six, but surprisingly, I didn't. I had one or two in my childhood I occasionally wrote in, but I only started keeping a regular journal at the ripe old age of 24, on my computer, when I left my home in 2010 to join an organization based in the US. I wrote often in it over the next two and a half years, as I lived in the US and the Philippines, and visited Mexico. Sad to say, once I had regular access to the Internet I wrote a lot less. Anyway, I'm really enjoying re-reading the random snippets of life that I recorded over that time. These are all from my time in the US, maybe next time it will be about the Philippines.


Americans' reactions to me being Indian:

'K mentioned that he was surprised that I didn't seem to have any accent at all. He’s worked with several Indians with the missionaries of Charity, and said he could recognize Indian accents pretty well now. Well, I told him, there are a variety of Indian accents depending on which part of India you came from. So he asked if my accentlessness was something people from my city had in common or if it was just my family, and I had to admit that it was just my very strange family.

Explaining that I’m not the typical Indian was as hard as I expected it to be. They are surprised that I don’t fit into their expectations of Indians, and I keep trying to tell them that I am pretty different from most Indians...I hope they don’t expect to learn about Indians by observing my life and manners and way of thinking.'


On being thought to be younger than I am- STILL happens!

'Oh you know, most people are really blank when it comes to figuring out how old I am... I was talking to one of the campers (at a youth camp), a 12 year old girl named N.

N: So how old are you?

Me: Very old.

N: No, how old exactly?

Me: I’ll tell you what. Take a good look at me, estimate how old I look, and then add five years to that.

So she looks at me.

N: Eighteen.

Me: Now add five years to that.

N: I already did!

Good grief! She thought I was thirteen!'


Insightful American-Indian comparisons:

'I don’t know if I wrote about this before, but one of the major differences I've found between Americans and Indians is that Americans are encouraged to be way more spontaneous and creative and uninhibited ever since they were little kids. Indians are not. So back home our family was considered creative and I was one of the crazy people... here I’m not.'

'I feel a little intimidated by how much more spontaneous everyone is here. Which in turn makes me way more inhibited than I normally am. I remind myself of so many Indians I knew- who were stiff, unsure of themselves, a little envious of the comfort zones of others. And the thing is, I know I’m not like that. Maybe it’s back to my ‘comparison’ complex. I define myself only in relation to other people. So when people at YA (our youth group) were shy or uncomfortable or quiet, I was loud and funny and outgoing. Now that I’m with funny outgoing spontaneous people, I’m quiet and inhibited and a little lost.'


Even more insight on feeling at home and yet out of place with my new community all wrapped up in a dance analogy (I know, I know, NOT a quick take):

I feel like I was a foreigner in my own country, and now I've finally found my world. Except that I don’t really fit in. Or like I've been speaking a strange language all my life that no one fully understood, and now I've come to a place where everyone speaks the language, except that I've realized I can understand the language really well, but can’t speak it as well as I thought I could.

However I have a strong feeling that I’m going to pick it up gradually, like when I got good at jiving. At first I just watched, for years in fact. I remember sitting at the side at youth group events, everybody else twirling and floating, blurred, but graceful. I would watch so wistfully, but guys rarely asked me to dance. Mostly because it was considered a declaration of interest if a guy asked a girl to dance. So they were scared that they were committing something if they just asked for a dance. So they just didn't. And a few of us girls would just be the wallflowers.

But then gradually I started learning. There were so many awkward attempts. Dancing with other girls, dancing with a few awkward guys who couldn't really dance. I thought it was hopeless. I didn't think I would ever be graceful and jive like the other girls. But then... it happened.... Oh the joy of dancing gracefully. It was like flying. . It was the joy of getting the rhythm, being a part of it, not just observing it from the outside. Being beautiful...

So I’m hoping- and I can see it happening- that I am eventually going to find my groove, move with the rhythm, dance this dance with grace and beauty and joy. It won’t look exactly the same as everyone else, because I’m Indian, and my cultural history is different, and I am different...

...So I will dance a slightly different dance, and yet the same- because we all come from different places, made with different molds and different colours and different flavours, and yet we are all wrapped together by our love for Jesus, and our love for souls, and we are all dancing together in the same direction- towards Heaven. And someday we will all be there, living together in perfect communion with Christ and each other. Someday.


A cooking fiasco and revealing my un-saintliness to my Christian community

'So I offered to cook (for the community) last week, and decided on chole bhatura as my menu. Simple enough, I thought, considering I had ready-made masala, and I've made bhaturas a zillion times. I started off on Wednesday morning by reading the recipe and suddenly realizing that the bhatura dough was supposed to ‘sit’ for six hours before I could use it. I hadn't even bought the ingredients. And here I can’t just pop down to the store to buy my groceries. It’s a Walmart trip that takes a full hour. So I started very late, using baking powder instead of yeast... not because they didn’t have yeast, but because I assumed they didn’t have yeast, and I didn’t bother to ask. The recipe said place dough in warm place to rise. Since the inside of the house was air conditioned, I decided to put it on a table on the porch. Real wise move.

Okay I am going to cut this narrative short since it really is already wearing on my nerves. Basically first I burnt the onions. Some of them. So I changed the pot, remembering Mama’s warnings about the burnt taste spoiling the whole dish. Then I cut open the packet of chole masala... and EMPTIED THE ENTIRE PACKET ON TO THE ONIONS. And mixed it in well. That’s when I stopped and said “Hmm... this looks very wrong.” I had put in more than double of what I needed. I just hadn't bothered to read the small print on the box. Gosh.

 I had a bunch of kids helping out, and with their encouragement and sympathy, and with a little inspiration from Mama Mary, I threw away half the onion with the masala, and added some more raw onions. Then I decided to check on the dough.

“Oh &%$# !” I exploded in front of all the kids ages 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 and their mother as I charged toward the porch. That stupid crazy dog was on the table, and having pulled off the cling wrap had his head in my dough. I freaked out! What would a dumb dog want with dough?

Thankfully, it hadn't made much headway, so I just threw away the top and quietly used the rest. It hadn't really risen, so the bhaturas didn't puff up well, then I managed to splash hot oil on my foot and the chole curry was so pungent that I added four tomatoes and I still burnt my throat when I tried it... but guess what? It was still edible, and they all enjoyed it. 

Well, the little kids weren’t allowed to eat the curry because it was too pungent, but they enjoyed the bhaturas. Everyone loved the bhaturas, and the older  kids were fascinated by the way they puffed up in the hot oil. The slogan for the bhaturas was “They’re not just edible, they’re INCREDIBLE!”'


A prayer I wrote that I need to remember:

'Lord, let me see people as souls that You want me to love, not as potential attention-givers or ego-feeders. Grant that I may no longer seek to be loved but to love.'


Random observations:

'I know I’m inculturated when... I’m at a Mexican event with the others and I say “You know, we’re the only white people here.” Oh, wait.

I know I've had an overload of Spanish when I look at Juanita's FB account and read ‘Wa-neeta’.

I know I miss hearing British English when... I watch Sabrina and feel a little thrill when I hear Audrey Hepburn say ‘buh-nah-nuh’ instead of the American ‘buh-n-Anna’. (A as in apple)'

More Quick Takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Very Touchy Topic of the Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

Shh, listen... do you hear that? You don't hear anything? That's it- it's the resounding silence of your Christian friends on the topic of homosexuality and gay rights. It's a topic many Christians would prefer to ignore, mostly because they're either not sure what to say, or they're scared of sounding like bigots.

But we can't really ignore the fact that homosexuality is a real thing, and you can't really sit on the fence about it. It keeps coming up- on American sitcoms, gay pride parade in your city, friends who are fighting for LGBT rights, the controversy over Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, even Bollywood movies now.

There is so much to say, but I'm not going to say it all. Maybe I'll leave you some links, maybe I'll write more later. But just a few thoughts and perspectives.

It is possible to disagree with the choices that other people make and still love them. I can accept a person, without accepting their moral choices, and even hoping, desiring, and doing whatever I can to help them make better choices. If you've ever had a friend who smokes too much, drinks too much, or is in an unhealthy relationship that is bad for them, you have already learned this. So believing that homosexual activity is ultimately not going to fulfill anyone and is even bad for them spiritually does not make one a bigot. You can disagree with my belief system, and that's your right too.

Just because it is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin does not mean Christians are doing that. It is far easier to hate the sin, and distance yourself from the sinner. And I've seen so many doing that, including myself (not in the case of homosexual lifestyles, but other sins). One of the big realizations we all need is that even when an act in itself is sinful, we are not called to judge the culpability of the sinner. That means we don't know their motives, their background, whether they are aware that they are sinning, whether they have been deceived or deceived themselves, whether the lies of our society has blinded them to truth. Even with an alcoholic who has fallen yet again, I am called to have compassion, and not condemnation.

This is one of my favourite articles about the kind of relationship you CAN have with friends you disagree with: A conversation with my gay friend by Jennifer Fulwiler

But if I truly love another human being, I CANNOT support them in a harmful lifestyle. That means I wouldn't join most LGBT movements which while promoting good things like awareness and anti-bullying, also encourage people with SSA to live an active sexual lifestyle.

I too think Section 377 should be scrapped. Every sin is not a crime. If you think that consensual homosexual activity should be an imprisonable offence, so should premarital sex, divorce, use of contraception, gluttony, masturbation, cutting (self-mutilation), and impure thoughts. If it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else, putting you in prison doesn't help anything. You can't FORCE people to stop sinning, except when it obviously causes harm to another person, which is when it becomes a crime.

Also, India treats people with SSA like crap. They can't receive medical help, they are harassed by police, they are mocked, they are rejected, they are marginalized. I can't even imagine how hard it must be for someone who is struggling with this to think about talking to their family or friends about it. Which brings me to...

Having same sex attraction (SSA) is not a sin. Desiring something you shouldn't happens to all human beings in different ways. IT IS NOT A SIN. IT IS NOT A CRIME. IT IS NOT EVEN SOMETHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. Have you been tempted to do something you shouldn't? Have you ever had sexual thoughts pop into your mind? Married people, have you ever had a crush on someone who was not your spouse? That's called 'fallen human nature'. That's the human condition. It is not someone's FAULT if they have these desires. It's what you do with them.

Like Joey Prever wrote in his coming out article 'Yoiks and Away', 'It doesn't make sense to be ashamed of something you didn't choose, and even though it’s just one among very many weird things that can happen to ordinary human beings.'

We need to acknowledge that many people are struggling with SSA. In India, no one talks about sex in a healthy way. Everything happens, noone talks about it. Pornography, adultery, prostitution, rape, child abuse, incest. But since appearances are SO important in India, everything gets covered up. And that leaves people feeling very alone and very trapped. If we never talk about it, or if we act like SSA is a temptation more disgusting than other temptations, then we have locked the ones who struggle in their closets.

The Catholic Church says, "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

We need to accept that they have a heavy cross. Although every human being has their unique struggles and sufferings, some are harder than others. Joey Prever wrote in The Truth About Same Sex Attraction, "Sex isn't everything, but as anyone with any kind of sexual dysfunction knows, it’s an awful lot. Put the sexual aspect together with the other things that homosexual men and women often experience — depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, a sense (however false) of being utterly different — and you have a heavy cross.'

In conclusion

Christians, we need to step up our 'loving'. Don't be afraid to speak the truth, but truth without love is not God's truth.

People who struggle with SSA, on behalf of all Christians who have knowingly or unknowingly hurt you, excluded you, belittled you, rejected you, I'm sorry. You are not alone. Jesus loves you, and has a good plan for your life. Don't be afraid.

Here are a few links that may help:


People Can Change

Steve Gershom

And this video:

The Third Way from Blackstone Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Hand-Holding and Other Such Indecent Behaviour

Did you know that some people in India consider hand-holding and kisses on the cheek in public 'indecent'? I kid you not. If you're Indian, you know about the Richard Gere- Shilpa Shetty incident. If you're not, prepare to be amazed at the things India chooses to be shocked by.

Yeah, an Indian court issued a warrant to arrest Richard Gere for... wait for it... kissing Shilpa Shetty, an Indian actress... ON THE CHEEK. It was an 'obscene act'.

Yup. For more 'Please tell me you're kidding' stories read this: Moral Police.

But back to the topic... holding hands.

I remember as a little kid companiably holding my cousin's hand as we walked home from Sunday School. Through most of my childhood, my parents would go on walks with one or more of their kids, and we often held hands as we walked. We're not a super physically affectionate kind of family, but that was one form of affection that was normal to us.

In the West, holding hands is seen as the most innocent of romantic gestures. In India, it is still a big deal. Guys and girls don't commonly hold hands unless they're in a relationship. Actually it's kinda cute, my mum and dad are one of the few married couples I've seen in India holding hands. (Which might get them arrested, but still.)

So what does hand holding really mean? Why hold someone's hand at all? What inspires the Beatles to sing 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' repetitively with almost no other lyrics to keep the song together?

I think it's the human contact. It's a sign of something more. An outward expression of an inner reality. A tangible sign of being loved, understood and WITH another human being. And yet so often, you get the outer sign without the inner reality. And so hand holding has begun to mean less. As have hugs. And kisses. And sex.

Can I tell you the most meaningful and comforting hand holding I have ever experienced?

No, it was not the annoying guy 'friend' who wouldn't take no for an answer and kept holding my hand while my younger inexperienced self tried to figure out the least awkward way of getting out of an awkward situation. (How do you pull your hand away without your actions screaming "I reject you!"? #problemsidonthaveanymore)

It was not a guy at all.

It was my mum. I came home one night weighed down by sadness and disappointment. I casually told my mum and dad what had happened. But then as they gently asked me questions, I began to unburden my heart. In the presence of someone who cared, I allowed the tears to gather and fall. And my mother silently took my hand and listened with love and sympathy. What a sweet, sweet experience of true companionship.

I think that's what every heart craves.